Director : Mennan Yapo
Screenplay : Bill Kelly
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2007
Stars : Sandra Bullock (Linda Hanson), Julian McMahon (Jim Hanson), Shyann McClure (Megan Hanson), Courtney Taylor Burness (Bridgette Hanson), Nia Long (Annie), Marc Macaulay (Sheriff Reilly), Kate Nelligan (Joanne), Irene Ziegler (Mrs. Quinn), Amber Valletta (Claire), Peter Stormare (Dr. Norman Roth)
There is potential emotional and spiritual intrigue buried somewhere deep in the metaphysical nonsense of Premonition, but what ultimately emerges is an ultimately tedious excursion into existential time-tripping that forces you to work overtime for minimal rewards. German director Mennan Yapo, who is making his English-language debut, apes Asian horror tropes in an attempt to punch up the tension, but Bill Kelly's screenplay oozes enough middle-class sentimentality to swallow up any real chills. At times, the film almost works as a moving ode to reclaiming a dying relationship, but its puzzlebox narrative obscures more than it enlightens.
Sandra Bullock puts on her dour face as Linda Hanson, a woman who would seem perfectly content on the outside--beautiful home, beautiful daughters, handsome and successful husband--but exteriors can be deceiving. Even though the film's washed out opening scene depicts a moment of blissful romance between Linda and her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon), when the story moves into the present tense their marriage has grown cold and distant. However, this doesn't make it any easier when a sheriff arrives at Linda's doorstep to inform her one morning that Jim has been killed in a freak auto-accident, and Linda spirals down into a near coma of sadness and loss.
That is, until the next morning when she awakens and finds that Jim is alive and well, sipping coffee and slurping cereal in the kitchen. Did she dream his death? Was it a vision of the future? Is she going crazy? The film juggles these possibilities as it settles into a fractured series of time slippages in which each morning Linda wakes up either several days before or several days after the accident. This has the effect of producing a sense of alternate realities, in which each day can end in potential tragedy (at one point, Linda is committed to an asylum) while each morning offers a new mystery (When did she start taking lithium? How did her daughter's face get cut up?). Linda is the only person aware of this unexplained metaphysical conundrum, which she begins trying to piece together in an effort to maintain her own sanity and discover if there is a way she can avert what she knows will eventually happen.
An intriguing, if not entirely original premise to be sure, but Premonition never quite builds up the momentum that seems so inherent to its narrative. Perhaps it is because it is difficult to muster much enthusiasm for Linda and Jim's slowly fading marriage. The opening scene and a few picture-perfect flashbacks to their wedding day are the only hints we get of what it was like when life was good together, which is hardly enough to overcome the sense of sullen despondency that takes over whenever they share the screen. McMahon evinces a kind of petrified moroseness that is simply deadly. Bullock, on the other hand, is given much more range to emote, and her reactions to the "inconsistencies" around her--which range from befuddlement to outright panic--give the film a solid emotional foundation from which it fails to build anything substantial.
That is not to say there isn't plenty of effort. In fact, Premonition makes a genuine stab at tying its supernatural hokum to serious spiritual questions about emptiness and loss. Unfortunately, it goes about it in the worst possible way, giving us an otherwise unmotivated scene involving a convenient priest who can articulate Linda's spiritual vacuum in clear and concise terms. It's precisely that kind of narrative laziness that sullies the film's more intriguing elements, especially its simultaneously expected and unexpected final act that, for once, follows through on the logic of the premise without fear of denying the audience a too-easy happy ending.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2007 TriStar Pictures